Telemachus 0012

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[Cf. 1922 5:20-27, Gabler 1:86-94]

We get an important glimpse of Stephen here, as we learn that he refused to pray for his mother at her deathbed. What kind of a**hole doesn’t obey his dying mother’s wish to pray with her? Discuss.

I mean, yes, Stephen is an Artist of Profound Integrity, who cannot compromise his belief in his unbelief. And yes, we are meant to think of him as kin with Hamlet, with Telemachus, with those who fight to leave behind their lives as boys to become men. And I even think that we are meant to pity Stephen more than a little, who has become so alienated through his extremism.

Mulligan refers to himself and Stephen as “hyperborean.” What does this mean? Gifford gives us the basics–it’s a classical allusion, to a kind of perfectly youthful master race who lived at the far ends of the earth. More specifically, Gifford pegs the reference to Nietzsche & a passage in The Will to Power, wherein the Ubermensch were described as hyperborean, as beyond the constraints of conventional morality, especially Christian morality.

Anyone out there have more to say about hyperborean? About Stephen’s refusal to submit and what we’re supposed to think about it?

I love the bottom panel here… Mulligan looking stately and plump indeed, beautifully framed and posed like he’s about to start shooting lasers out of his hands. Which would make things interesting. His pose, his position, his framing, all speak together with the authority of Mulligan’s perfectly reasonable criticism of Stephen. And Stephen knows it, but he doesn’t care.

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14 thoughts on “Telemachus 0012

  1. A tad late here, but, as for “hyperborean”, in classical Greek mythology, they were thought to be near immortals. They lived in “Hyperborea”, far to the north, where it was always daylight. It’s since been thought that this “hyperborea” the Greeks knew came from stories of the areas near the arctic circle, where a day can last for months. Wikipedia does a good job of summarizing the topic.

    At a simple level, Mulligan could simply be referring to themselves as people living far to the north. It could be extended to bring to mind the poem by Horace (“More Lasting Than Bronze”), where Mulligan considers themselves to be artists who would live eternally through their works.

    • Hyperborean has long been associated with the Celts (Strabo, Ptolemy onward). Mulligan may just be saying we are Celts. Knowing Herodotus as they both would, he may be saying we are uncivilized Celts, beyond the known edges of civilized world, beyond the Pale. Loving mockery as Mulligan does he may also be saying we are long-winded sons of Boreas (the god of winds), living beyond the Irish Pale, beyond British civilization, and we are hyper Bore ans.

      • Nietzsche referrs to himself and those reading “The Antichrist” as Hyperboreans. The implications of this word can only be truely found by reading this text.

    • it seems rather simple to me – he means that him and stephen are supreme beings living outside conventional society and above the simple morality espoused by Christianity and so he is saying “I hate saying prayers and christian rituals as much as you”

  2. “…artists who would live eternally through their works.”

    Love that. Its truly a part of what Mulligan is saying here because he wants, or believes, that art is the new modern immortality.

    But immortality is often seen through procreation and, more specifically in Western culture, through a father having a son. A fundamental issue/theme within the novel. This is a great example of how the text is really layered with characterization and specific viewpoint. Mulligan, as himself, wants this very “Hyperborianism”, this immortality, that you’re talking about and he believes he can share it with Stephen, best artists he knows.

    But, often the case with Joyce, there’s another context. Mike might be able to give a clearer version of its source, but I know the Hyperborian people through CONAN novels I read as a kid.

    They’re cold, these stony hardened immortals of the North Country. Iron cold. Godson’s of the Aesir who’s mood and sympathy is harsh-edged like climate and sword points that made them famous in the Britons (got to do some CONAN here, since I get so little opportunity for it on this project, “… sullen-eyed, sword in hand”).

    Mulligan echoes and references coldness here in the context of his his statement, sure, but its part of the insight of Joyce’s language that allows him to use Hyperborians as a way of accessing the immortality of art that he believes they might create here at Martello tower, the omphalos of a new Greek order in Dublin.

    Or he might be gay, which gives the “hardened steel” metaphor a whole other reading.

  3. I’ve been thinking about this one some more, and it’s making me feel as though Mulligan is misusing the word. Whether Joyce intended these layered meanings is beyond me, but I don’t get the impression that Mulligan himself would intend these meanings.

    Instead, it occurs to me that, perhaps, Joyce inserted this as a way to show that Mulligan is attempting to show himself as very knowledgeable in Greek, when, in fact, Mulligan is just being pretentious, or possibly trying to bluff his way with shallow knowledge.

    • I think it’s less a misuse of the word than it is an unnecessary use of the word. I mean, he is trying to make Stephen feel guilty for being so heartless as to deny his dying mother his prayers. I think that this does nothing to torpedo your assertion that Joyce has used this (as well as just about every instance of Mulligan opening his mouth) to show Mulligan as being pretentious and all bluster. Mulligan could have gotten his point across without the $50 word, but I think you’re right that he has chosen that particular word as a means of posturing.

  4. Never forget to look for puns and sound alikes.

    Hyperborean , pronounced by an Irishman, sounds just like “Hibernian” and , of course, “I’m Hibernian as much as you” is true.

    To twist it a little more, it is a point of pride for both Mulligan and Daedalus that they are not typical Hibernians.

  5. In _Ulysses_, Buck Mulligan is described as having (Gabler 6.132) “a strong wellknit trunk” and (6.126) “smokeblue mobile eyes.” In the comic he is consistently shown as having a pronounced potbelly and light brown eyes. I find it difficult to treat the comic seriously due to being put off by these and other obviously incorrect details. I don’t think the argument of artistic integrity (or even license) pertains at such a basic level.

  6. The question of what to love about Ireland, if anything, drives this. One’s tempted to say this is Joyce poking fun at himself (with Dedalus standing for him), and then the question is what Joyce has refused to pray to, and who his dying ‘mother’ is. Is it Ireland, since he was an ex-pat while writing this? Or an effete ideal of Ireland in contrast with the people of Dublin as seen through Bloom’s eyes?

  7. French translation / Traduction française :Nous avons là un aperçu important de
    la personnalité de Stephen, en apprenant qu’il a refusé de prier
    pour sa mère au chevet de son lit de mort. Quel genre de trouduc
    faut-il être pour ne pas répondre au souhait de sa mère mourante,
    lorsqu’elle demande de l’accompagner dans ses prières ? Vaste

    Je veux dire que oui, Stephen est un
    Artiste d’une Profonde Intégrité, qui ne peut faire de compromis
    entre sa croyance et son impiété. Et que oui, nous sommes amenés à
    le voir comme un proche parent de Hamlet, de Télémaque, et de tous
    ceux qui s’enrégimentent pour changer de vie, en garçons qui
    cherchent à devenir des hommes. Et je pense même que nous sommes
    supposés éprouver de la pitié, et pas qu’un peu, pour ce Stephen
    si aliéné par son comportement extrême.

    Mulligan qualifie Stephen et lui-même
    d’Hyperboréens. Qu’est-ce que ça signifie ? Gifford nous donne
    les éléments de base pour comprendre : c’est une allusion
    classique à une sorte de race supérieure, juvénile et parfaite,
    qui vivait aux confins de la Terre. Plus précisément, Gifford fait
    référence à Nietzsche dans un passage de « La Volonté de
    puissance », où les Surhommes sont décrits comme des
    Hyperboréens, vivant par-delà les contraintes des conventions
    morales, et plus spécialement de la morale chrétienne.

    Quelqu’un ici a-t-il quelque chose à
    ajouter sur les Hyperboréens ? Ou bien à propos du refus de
    Stephen de se soumettre, et de ce qu’il faut en penser ?

    J’aime la vignette au bas de cette
    planche… Mulligan, imposant et bien replet, est superbement cadré
    et représenté comme s’il allait se mettre à lancer des rayons
    lasers avec ses mains. Ce qui donnerait quelque chose d’intéressant.
    Cette pose, cette posture, ce cadrage, tout cela est à l’unisson
    avec l’autorité de la critique parfaitement légitime de Mulligan à
    l’égard de Stephen. Et Stephen le sait bien, mais il s’en fiche.

  8. “Hyperboreans” were supposed to live in far northern countries. Therefore, it makes no doubt for me that it is meant as ” cold blooded”, “icy” ( the opposite of “a warm person”.
    Very warm thanks, nonetheless, for such interesting articles!

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